DVDs and streaming for Dec. 1 by Boo Allen
This week, we begin with ants:
Ageless funnyman Paul Rudd stars as the title super-hero in this mostly light-hearted feature based on yet another Marvel Comics character. Rudd plays Scott Lang, a well meaning yet small time burglar who, through circumstances, falls in with outcast genius and entrepreneur Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym has created a suit that Lang wears to shrink himself to the size of ant while also increasing his powers. The plot revolves around some silly corporate shenanigans involving villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). But the narrative simply serves Rudd’s polished off-hand delivery of his abundant comic lines, all while the excellent special effects make small things big and big things small.
Rated PG-13, 117 minutes.
Extras: commentary, a “making of” featurette, a featurette on the special effects, a brief tongue-in-cheek featurette on Pym Industries, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel.
Mississippi Grind (***)
This often compelling movie about gambling and gambling addiction has, strangely enough, few gambling scenes, and even those are clumsy and never ring true. Otherwise, this first film from writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck since 2007’s Half Nelson, an earlier look at addiction, offers a probing yet painful look at obsession. Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn turn in effective performances as, respectively, Curtis and Gerry, two small time gamblers and poker players who meet at a game in Iowa. They combine forces and head toward New Orleans for some alleged “Big Game.” Of course they become sidetracked along the way with a girlfriend (Sienna Miller) and an ex-wife (Robin Wiegert), encounters which help paint the two as pathetic losers, fascinating in their failure. Like anything resembling a sports movie, this one too heads toward a climactic scene, which, unfortunately, feel forced and contrived. But before that culmination, the character portraits seem painfully authentic.
Rated R, 109 minutes.
Extras: an 18 minute “making of” featurette
American Ultra (**1/2)
Mike and Phoebe (Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, respectively) simply seem to be two slackers in love. But a chance confrontation wakes Mike up to what he used to be, that is, a trained C.I.A. killer. Phoebe has her own secrets, all of which remain hidden while director Nima Nourizadeh first choreographs several novel bouts of violence resulting in an escalating body count. Topher Grace plays the C.I.A. chief who assigns a hit-squad to eliminate the newly awakened Mike, who, for his part, finds a guardian angel in the form of his former trainer Victoria (Connie Britton). To keep the overly-familiar story entertaining, Max Landis’ script mixes the dark with the romantic, along with plentiful action sequences. For their parts, which require little of substance, Eisenberg and Stewart bring their limited acting abilities that range, to steal a quotation from Dorothy Parker, “from A to B.”
Rated R, 96 minutes.
Extras: commentary, a comprehensive 41 minute two part, “making of” featurette, and four minute featurettes on “Assassinating on a budget,” and a gag reel.
CPO Sharkey—The Best of Season One
Don Rickles’ TV series from 1976 to 1978, originally seen on N.B.C., continues to be mined in this single disc collection of six episodes from the first season. Rickles plays Chief Petty Officer Otto Sharkey, in charge of the new recruits of Company 144 at the San Diego naval training center. Episodes include “Oh Captain! My Captain,” “The Dear John Letter,” “Goodbye Dolly,” “Sunday in Tijuana,” “Sharkey Boogies on Down,” and “Sharkey’s Secret Life.”
Not rated, 148 minutes.
Also on DVD and streaming: Amy, Momentum, Some Kind of Beautiful, Tokyo Tribe.